Fuller's chair says the country needs hospitality fully open – and soon
Fuller's chairman Michael Turner has said the country needs its hospitality businesses fully open again "for the financial contribution they make, the jobs they create, and the significant role they play in the emotional wellbeing of our customers and our teams".
His statement, as part of the pub group's half-year results for the 26 weeks to 26 September 2020, said: "It is important to note that there have been incredibly low levels of infection recorded across pubs, restaurants and hotels. It is vital now for the mental wellbeing of the nation that people are allowed to meet and socialise in a responsible manner, in the safe environment that pubs, restaurants and hotels have proved they can provide.
"We need our industry to reopen without onerous restrictions that deter our customers and hamper our ability to trade profitably, and in a way that reflects the commitment we have made to ensuring our venues are safe and coronavirus secure. The notion that closing the hospitality industry reduces infection rates is a fallacy, as doing so forces people to socialise in the home in a completely unregulated environment where recorded infection rates are infinitely higher."
He also called for extensions to the business rates holiday and VAT reduction, adding that the sector can lead the economic recovery but will need longer-term support to rebuild businesses and return to growth.
The group reported revenue of £45.6m compared to £167.1m in the same period last year, as well as a pre-tax loss of £23m against a £14.2m profit in the first half of the prior year.
Chief executive Simon Emeny said news of a Covid-19 vaccine was "excellent news for the future" and "a return to normality is in sight".
The group has used its closure periods to invest in its estate and Emeny said he was "optimistic about the future in the medium term and beyond", although acknowledged that it is going to be a "tough winter and a very different looking Christmas".
He said: "The excellent news of successful vaccines gives us confidence where previously there was uncertainty, and with the sensible decisions we have taken during the pandemic, Fuller's is well-placed for future success."
He added: "This business is armed with a well-invested and well-balanced, freehold estate, excellent people, robust financial foundations, a clear and consistent strategy, and the drive and desire to lead the way out of this crisis. The long-term future for Fuller's looks positive."
Fuller's has 212 managed pubs, with 1,028 boutique bedrooms, and 176 tenanted inns, most of which are in the south of England.